Tart Lime Wafers {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge is a great make-ahead cookie. The dough is formed into rolls, which can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to slice and bake them. Kind of like the cookie dough you see in tubes in the dairy case, but without all the nasty preservatives.

The dough is mixed up in the food processor, and I could tell by reading the ingredient list that it was going to be a lot. I’m pretty sure Nick Malgieri must have a 14-cup food processor, because several of his recipes have filled by 11-cupper to the brim. I thought about cutting the recipe in half, but I really wanted that extra roll of dough to freeze, so I went with the full recipe.

I started by mixing flour, sugar, salt, and lots of lime zest in the food pro, then adding 3 sticks(!) of butter.

Next I added eggs, then mixed until the dough formed into a ball.

I had to stop and scrape the dough down into the bowl a few times, but eventually it came together.

I scraped the dough out onto a floured pastry mat, divided it in half, then shaped each piece into an 8-inch cylinder.

The next step is to roll the cylinders in lime sugar, which I made using lime zest and King Arthur Flour sparkling white sugar.

I spread the lime sugar out on the pasty mat and rolled each log until it was well coated.

I had a lot of lime sugar left over, so I packed it up and stashed it in the freezer. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but coating the rim of a mojito glass comes to mind.

Nick gives great instructions for tightening up the dough cylinders using parchment paper and a dough scraper. Mine went from the loose logs you see above to this:

I wrapped the cylinders in plastic wrap and stuck one in the fridge to bake the next day and the other in the freezer for later use.

To bake the cookies, I sliced the dough into thin disks and placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I baked the cookies at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until they were slightly puffed and just starting to brown around the edges.

These cookies were a huge hit around my house. Sweet, tart, buttery, crispy — they reminded me a lot of a shortbread cookie. And they were perfect for dunking in tea or coffee.

This is definitely a recipe to repeat. And it makes a generous amount of dough, so you can bake one roll and freeze the other for later. Re-roll the dough in the leftover sugar, slice, and bake, and you can have these fresh, delicious cookies anytime.

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Twenty-minute Honey-glazed Duck Breasts {FFwD}

OK, so I’m a week late with this French Fridays with Dorie post. It’s a good thing, too, since I haven’t made this week’s Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup yet. But there’s always tomorrow. Hope springs eternal in the Divine kitchen.

This was a very simple recipe and was easy to throw together on a weeknight. Some of the other FFwD members had a difficult time finding duck breasts, and some of them paid quite a bit for them (up to $20/lb) once they located them. Fortunately, I have a local farm that was processing ducks this week, so for $4/lb and a bit of butchering, I had duck legs for confit, offal, the neck and carcass for stock, and two beautiful breasts for this recipe.

I scored the breasts to allow the fat to render as they cooked.

After preheating the oven to 250°F and heating a dutch oven on the stovetop, I put the breasts, skin side down, in the pan. I cooked them for 8 minutes, then turned them over and cooked an additional 2 minutes.

I realized when I turned them over that I should have cooked them slightly less time than the recipe called for, as the duck breasts were on the small side.

I wrapped the duck breasts in foil and put them in the oven while I made the sauce, which consisted of duck fat, balsamic vinegar, honey, and lime juice. I cooked the sauce for a minute or two, then put the breasts in the pan and heated them on each side for about 30 seconds.

I sliced the breasts on a cutting board, then drizzled some of the sauce on top.

The duck breasts were slightly overcooked for my liking, but were still juicy, tender, and delicious. I tried a piece before plating, and ended up eating both duck breasts (with the help of A, who had already had dinner) directly from the cutting board. The meat was savory and not at all greasy, and the sauce was sweet, tangy, and slightly sour.

I could eat these duck breasts any night of the week. And since this is such a simple recipe, I’m sure I’ll be making them again soon.

Lemon Lime Tartlets & Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets — A {ModBak} Twofer

With two weeks left to go in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge, I found myself with four recipes remaining. The kids are out of town, and we decided to have a low-key day today, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play a little catch-up. I decided to knock out three recipes at once. The lemon lime tartlet and chocolate caramel pecan tartlet recipes each make 24 tartlets, way too many to have around with just J and me to eat them. Since each recipe calls for the tart shells to be prebaked, I figured I would bake the shells together and then fill them.

As for the third recipe, well, that’s the tartlet shells for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. The recipe calls for shells made with chocolate nut dough, and since this is the first recipe to use that dough, I hadn’t made it yet. The lemon lime tartlets are made with sweet tart dough, which I’ve made for many of the recipes in this section.

I mixed up both doughs early in the day and let them chill in the fridge for a few hours. For the lemon lime tartlets, I rolled out the sweet tart dough, cut it into circles, and pressed each disk into a mini muffin pan. Then I did the same with the chocolate nut dough.

I chilled the dough in the pans for about an hour, then baked the shells in a 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Although I pricked the dough well with a fork before baking, the shells puffed up to the point where there was no room for filling. While the shells were still hot, I pressed the center of each one with a small ladle to make room for the filling. I cooled the crusts in the pan for a few minutes, then removed them to a cooling rack. A few of the bakers in the Challenge noted that their tartlet shells stuck when they baked them in mini muffin pans. Knowing this, I had sprayed my pan lightly with spray oil, and my shells came out beautifully.

While the tart shells were cooling, I toasted coconut for the lemon lime tartlets, then made the filling for the chocolate caramel pecan tartlets. (I didn’t have to make the lemon lime filling, as I had leftover lemon and lime curds in the fridge from making ice cream.) The chocolate filling isn’t particularly difficult, although it does require quite a few steps and dirties a lot of pans and bowls. The caramel is made in one pan while the cream is heated in another. These are combined, then scraped into a bowl to cool. Chocolate, which has been melted and cooled in another bowl, is then added to the caramel-cream mixture, and butter and nuts (which have been toasted in a separate pan) are added last.

After making the filling and shells, assembling the tartlets was a breeze. I spooned the chocolate caramel pecan tartlet filling into the shells and topped each one with a toasted pecan.

For the lemon lime tartlets, I had planned to mix my lemon and lime curds, which I had made and stored separately, but Nick cautions against overstirring the curd, lest it become too liquid. I tested this by putting a spoonful of each into a bowl and mixing them. Sure enough, the curd broke down and become too watery to hold up in the tart shells. So I filled half the shells with lemon curd and the other half with lime curd, then topped them with toasted coconut.

My wife and I enjoyed these tartlets for a late-evening snack. We loved the flavor of all three of the tartlets, although we did discover that it was best to eat the chocolate ones first, as they tended to taste a little bitter after eating the curd-filled tartlets.

These were delicious tarts, and I will definitely make them again. However, unless I’m making them for a finger-food event, I would be inclined to do them as full size tarts, rather than tartlets.

Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup {FFwD}

The third recipe Dorie Greenspan chose for the French Fridays with Dorie group seems like an odd recipe to find in a French cookbook — Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. However, as Dorie explains, France has colonial ties to Vietnam, and Vietnamese restaurants are common throughout France. So, it should not come as a surprise that some Vietnamese dishes have found their way into French kitchens.

This recipe is a combination of two traditional Vietnamese soups: pho ga and la sa ga. I’ve never had either of these soups, but this recipe does remind me of one of my favorite dishes — Thai chicken coconut soup.

The recipe begins with a bouquet garni tied up with star anise, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, and cilantro stems. This is added to a pot with onion, garlic, fresh ginger, red chiles, chicken broth, and coconut milk. This mixture is seasoned with fish sauce, brown sugar, and salt, then brought to a boil.

Once the broth boiled, I lowered it to a simmer and added the chicken breasts. I covered the pot and poached the chicken for about 15 minutes.

After the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes before shredding it by hand. While the chicken was cooling, I cooked and drained the noodles.

I then returned the broth to a boil and added the chicken and noodles to the pot. When everything was heated through, I stirred in cilantro and lime juice, adjusted the seasonings, and served the soup for dinner with a salad.

I topped my bowl with a few splashes of chili oil. I had omitted the red chiles from the recipe at the beginning, as I was serving the soup for dinner and my daughters don’t like things that are too spicy.

This soup was delicious. Spicy, slightly sweet from the coconut milk, and full of flavor. As noted above, it reminded me of Thai chicken coconut soup, which I order almost every time we get Thai food.

Even though there were quite a few ingredients in this recipe, it was really simple to assemble, and it was ready to serve in about 30 minutes, making it a perfect light dinner for any night of the week.

Triple-Citrus Cupcakes {MSC}

This evening, in the time it took for the rest of the family to decide what they wanted for dinner, I mixed up these wonderful cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes.

The batter consisted of butter, sugar, lemon, orange, and lime zest, eggs, flour, and salt. The butter and sugar whipped up really light and fluffy, and the batter ended up having the consistency of fresh whipped cream. By the time I put the batter in the pan, we had decided on dinner and called in our order.

The cupcakes were finished in 20 minutes, just in time for me to go pick up our dinner. By the time we were done eating, the cupcakes had cooled and were ready to be glazed.

I mixed up the glaze, which consisted of powdered sugar, lime zest, and fresh lime juice. I dipped the cupcakes in the glaze, then sprinkled them with lime zest.

These cupcakes were really delicious. They weren’t overly sweet, and the citrus gave them a nice depth of flavor. Although I’ve only baked a few recipes out of this book, so far I’m impressed with what I’ve tasted.

Tostones — Fried Plantains

Over the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend, we made a trip up to the Westside Market in Cleveland. Among the many treasures I found there (cultured, goat milk, and Irish butters!), I came home with three nice plantains. I love plantains and order them whenever we go to a Caribbean restaurant. We have cooked with them before, but this time I decided I wanted to try my hand a tostones — twice-fried plantain chips.

Generally, tostones recipes call for green plantains. The starchy green fruits are perfect for frying into crisp chips. The plantains I bought were just a bit on the yellow side, but I decided to use them anyway.

I looked up some recipes and decided to do a mash-up of several that looked good. The soaker comes from Alton Brown, and he seems to have taken quite a bit of flack from people who say it’s not authentic. (Interestingly, there are at least as many people who say his method is absolutely authentic.) I wasn’t that concerned with how other people’s grandmother’s did or didn’t make their tostones; I just wanted them to be tasty.

And they were. Here is the recipe I came up with.

Tostones

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 green or slightly yellow plantains
  • oil for frying
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • juice of 1 lime

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large pan. The oil should be at least 2 inches deep. (I used my Fry Daddy out in the backyard to keep the house from smelling like fried food.)
  2. Slice the ends off the plantains. Score the plantains lengthwise, then remove the skins. Cut the plantains into 3/4-inch thick slices.
  3. Combine water, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and lime juice in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Fry plantains slices in the hot oil for 3 minutes, until they are golden and slightly soft. Don’t overcrowd the pan; the slices should be able to float in a single layer on top of the oil.
  5. Remove the slices to paper towels. Allow to drain and cool while you start frying the next batch of plantains. When the fried slices are cool enough to handle, place the slices an inch or so apart on a piece of wax paper. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and flatten the plantain slices into thin rounds.
  6. Put the flattened slices in the water mixture and allow to soak for at least 1 minute. Remove to paper towels and pat dry.
  7. Fry the flattened slices for 3 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
  8. Drain on paper towels. Salt to taste and serve warm or cold.

Serves 4 – 5.

These were savory and delicious plain, but were especially good with mango salsa. They make a great appetizer. They can be topped with salsa or other toppings, or served with a dip.